13. Shamanism, Spirit Mediums


Anderson, Samantha, "Gender and Ritual in South-East China." In: Arvind Sharma & Katherine K. Young [eds.], Annual Review of Women in World Religions, vol. VI. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2002. Pp.122-207.


Baptandier, Brigitte (1996), "A travers les chemins et les passes. Voyages chamaniques au pays du réel. Voyages réels au pays des chamanes." In: Claudine Salmon [ed.], Récits de voyages asiatiques. Genres, mentalités, conception de l'espace. Actes du colloque EFEO-EHESS de décembre 1994. Paris: École française d'Extrême-Orient. Pp.1-29.


Baptandier, Brigitte, "Façonner la divinité en soi: À la recherche d'un lieu d'énonciation." Ethnologies 25(2003)1: 109-151. (Note: On female mediums [xiangu] in Fujian province.)


Baptandier, Brigitte; translated by Kristin Ingrid Fryklund. The Lady of Linshui: A Chinese Female Cult. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008.

Abstract: This anthropological study examines the cult of the Chinese goddess Chen Jinggu, divine protector of women and children. The cult of the "Lady of Linshui" began in the province of Fujian on the southeastern coast of China during the eleventh century and remains vital in present-day Taiwan. Skilled in Daoist practices, Chen Jinggu's rituals of exorcism and shamanism mobilize physiological alchemy in the service of human and natural fertility. Through her fieldwork at the Linshuima temple in Tainan (Taiwan) and her analysis of the narrative and symbolic aspects of legends surrounding the Lady of Linshui, Baptandier provides new insights into Chinese representations of the feminine and the role of women in popular religion. [Source: publisher's website]


Boileau, Gilles, "Wu and Shaman." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 65(2002)2: 350-378.


Boltz, Judith. "On the Legacy of Zigu and a Manual of Spirit-writing in Her Name." In: The People and the Dao: New Studies in Chinese Religions in Honour of Prof. Daniel L. Overmyer, edited by Philip Clart & Paul Crowe. Sankt Augustin: Institut Monumenta Serica, 2009. Pp. 349-388.


Boretz, Avron A., "Martial Gods and Magic Swords: Identity, Myth, and Violence in Chinese Popular Religion." Journal of Popular Culture 29(1995)1: 93-109.


Boretz, Avron Albert, "Martial Gods and Magic Swords: The Ritual Production of Manhood in Taiwanese Popular Religion." Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell University, 1996.


Boretz, Avron. Gods, Ghosts, and Gangsters: Ritual Violence, Martial Arts, and Masculinity on the Margins of Chinese Society. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011.

Abstract: Demon warrior puppets, sword-wielding Taoist priests, spirit mediums lacerating their bodies with spikes and blades—these are among the most dramatic images in Chinese religion. Usually linked to the propitiation of plague gods and the worship of popular military deities, such ritual practices have an obvious but previously unexamined kinship with the traditional Chinese martial arts. The long and durable history of martial arts iconography and ritual in Chinese religion suggests something far deeper than mere historical coincidence. Avron Boretz argues that martial arts gestures and movements are so deeply embedded in the ritual repertoire in part because they iconify masculine qualities of violence, aggressivity, and physical prowess, the implicit core of Chinese patriliny and patriarchy. At the same time, for actors and audience alike, martial arts gestures evoke the mythos of the jianghu, a shadowy, often violent realm of vagabonds, outlaws, and masters of martial and magic arts. Through the direct bodily practice of martial arts movement and creative rendering of jianghu narratives, martial ritual practitioners are able to identify and represent themselves, however briefly and incompletely, as men of prowess, a reward otherwise denied those confined to the lower limits of this deeply patriarchal society. Based on fieldwork in China and Taiwan spanning nearly two decades, Gods, Ghosts, and Gangsters offers a thorough and original account of violent ritual and ritual violence in Chinese religion and society. Close-up, sensitive portrayals and the voices of ritual actors themselves—mostly working-class men, many of them members of sworn brotherhoods and gangs—convincingly link martial ritual practice to the lives and desires of men on the margins of Chinese society. (Source: publisher's website)


Brown, Melissa J. "The Cultural Impact of Gendered Social Roles and Ethnicity: Changing Religious Practices in Taiwan." Journal of Anthropological Research 59(2003)1: 47-67.


Bunkenborg, Mikkel. "Popular Religion Inside Out: Gender and Ritual Revival in a Hebei Township." China Information 26.3 (2012): 359-376.

Burton-Rose, Daniel. "Mid-Qing Spirit-Altars, Officialdom, and Patrilinear Power: Peng Qifeng's Prefaces to the Complete Works of Thearch Guan, Patriarch Lü, and Wenchang (1772–1775)." Daojiao xuekan 2019, no. 1: 130–156.


Burton-Rose, Daniel. “Establishing a Literati Spirit-Writing Altar in Early Qing Suzhou: The Optimus Prophecy of Peng Dingqiu (1645-1719).” T’oung Pao 106 (2020): 358-400.


Campany, Robert F., "To Hell and Back: Death, Near-Death and Other Worldly Journeys in Early Medieval China." In J.J. Collins & M. Fishbane [eds.], Death, Ecstasy, and Other Wordly Journeys. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995. Pp.343-360.


Chan, Margaret. Ritual is Theatre, Theatre is Ritual: Tang-ki Chinese Spirit Medium Worship. Singapore: Singapore: Wee Kim Wee Centre, Singapore Management University, SNP Reference, 2006.


Chan, Margaret. “The Spirit-mediums of Singkawang: Performing 'Peoplehood'.” In Chinese Indonesians Reassessed: History, Religion and Belonging, ed. Siew-Min Sai & Chang-Yau Hoon. London; New York, NY: Routledge, 2013. Pp. 138-157.


Chao, Shin-yi. " A Danggi Temple in Taipei: Spirit-Mediums in Modern Urban Taiwan." Asia Major 15(2002)2: 129-156.


Chau, Adam Yuet. "'Superstition Specialist Households'? The Household Idiom in Chinese Religious Practices." Minsu quyi 153 (2006): 157-202.


Chen, Chung-min, "What Makes the Spirit Medium so Popular?" In: Wang Ch'iu-kui, Chuang Ying-chang & Chen Chung-min [eds.], Shehui, minzu yu wenhua zhanyan guoji yantaohui lunwenji. Taipei: Hanxue Yanjiu Zhongxin, 2001. Pp.161-181.


Chou, Hansen. “Politics of the Periphery: Religion and Its Place at a City’s Edge in Taiwan.” MA thesis, University of British Columbia, 2009.

Abstract: This thesis explores the recent revival of popular religion in Taiwan through broader anthropological concerns regarding place and space. Swift industrialization and rapid urbanization of past decades have not dissuaded religious practice; instead they have flourished on the island. This study pays specific attention to their proliferation at the urban margins. Drawing on historical and ethnographic data based on field research conducted in 2007, the present work examines the spatial politics of place at a community on the urban periphery, just outside of Taipei in northern Taiwan. More specifically, it analyzes two key sites within the community that locals often evoke as crucial locations in their cultural and social imaginings of place: a cultural heritage district and the local communal temple. It documents various “spatial practices” (de Certeau 1984) of place, and focuses particularly on the divination ritual at the temple. This work draws upon some of the ideas advanced by Henri Lefebvre (1991) in his theorization of urbanization, particularly his notion of “abstract space”: the expanding spaces of homogeneity created in the wake of global capitalism’s spread. By addressing the everyday experiences of space, this thesis addresses the dynamics between histories, affect and place. In all, it argues that, amidst the uncertainties of change brought on by their modern(izing) surroundings, people resort to rituals like divination in hopes to mitigate their maladies and misfortunes. By turning to the past in their attempts to make sense of the present, they further engage in a form of local production.


Clart, Philip, "The Birth of a New Scripture: Revelation and Merit Accumulation in a Taiwanese Spirit-Writing Cult." British Columbia Asian Review 8(Winter 1994/95):174-203.


Clart, Philip, "The Ritual Context of Morality Books: A Case-Study of a Taiwanese Spirit-Writing Cult." Ph.D. dissertation, University of British Columbia, 1996.


Clart, Philip, "The Phoenix and the Mother: The Interaction of Spirit Writing Cults and Popular Sects in Taiwan." Journal of Chinese Religions 25 (1997): 1-32.


Clart, Philip, "Moral Mediums: Spirit-Writing and the Cultural Construction of Chinese Spirit-Mediumship." Ethnologies 25(2003)1: 153-190.


Clart, Philip, "Chinese Tradition and Taiwanese Modernity: Morality Books as Social Commentary and Critique." In: Philip Clart & Charles B. Jones [eds.], Religion in Modern Taiwan: Tradition and Innovation in a Changing Society. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2003. Pp.84-97.


Clart, Philip, "Confucius and the Mediums: Is There a 'Popular Confucianism'?" T'oung Pao: International Journal of Chinese Studies 89(2003)1-3: 1-38.


Clart, Philip. "Generals, Pigs, and Immortals: Views and Uses of History in Chinese Morality Books." Journal of Ritual Studies 19(2005)1: 99-113.


Clart, Philip. “Text and Context in the Study of Spirit-Writing Cults: A Methodological Reflection on the Relationship of Ethnography and Philology.” In Text and Context in the Modern History of Chinese Religions: Redemptive Societies and Their Sacred Texts, edited by Philip Clart, David Ownby, and Wang Chien-chuan, 309–322. Leiden: Brill, 2020.


Cline, Erin M. “Female Spirit Mediums and Religious Authority in Contemporary Southeastern China.” Modern China 36.6 (2010): 520-555.

Abstract: Although studies of Chinese spirit mediums in Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan abound, there has been little work done on spirit mediums in mainland China today. Yet spirit mediums play an important role in religious life in southeastern China, and in some areas, spirit mediums are predominantly women. This phenomenon is significant not only because it allows women who are of relatively low status to hold positions of religious authority but also because female spirit mediums sometimes address community needs that are not addressed by other religious authorities.


Cohen, Paul A., History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. See esp. ch.3: "Mass Spirit Possession."


Cohen, Erik. The Chinese Vegetarian Festival in Phuket: Religion, Ethnicity and Tourism on a Southern Thai Island. Bangkok: White Lotus, 2001. (See Chapter 6: "Spirit Mediumship".)


Cohen, Erik. “Kuan To: The Vegetarian Festival in a Peripheral Southern Thai Shrine.” In: Pattana Kitiarsa [ed.], Religious Commodifications in Asia: Marketing Gods. London: Routledge, 2008. Pp.68-88.


Davis, Edward L., Society and the Supernatural in Song China. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2001.

Abstract: Society and the Supernatural in Song China is at once a meticulous examination of spirit possession and exorcism in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and a social history of the full panoply of China's religious practices and practitioners at the moment when she was poised to dominate the world economy. Although the Song dynasty (960-1276) is often identified with the establishment of Confucian orthodoxy, Edward Davis demonstrates the renewed vitality of the dynasty's Taoist, Buddhist, and local religious traditions. (Source: publisher's webpage)


Dean, Kenneth. "Spirit Mediums and Secular–Religious Divides in Singapore." In The Secular in South, East, and Southeast Asia, edited by Kenneth Dean and Peter van der Veer, 51–81. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.


DeBernardi, Jean, "Tasting the Water." In: Dennis Tedlock & Bruce Mannheim [eds.], The Dialogic Emergence of Culture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995. Pp.234-254.


DeBernardi, Jean, "On Trance and Temptation: Images of the Body in Malaysian Chinese Popular Religion." In Jane Marie Law [ed.], Religious Reflections on the Human Body. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995. Pp.151-165.


DeBernardi, Jean, "Teachings of a Spirit Medium." In: Lopez, Donald S., Jr. [ed.], Religions of China in Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996. Pp.229-238.


DeBernardi, Jean, "Spiritual Warfare and Territorial Spirits: The Globalization and Localisation of a 'Practical Theology'." Religious Studies and Theology 18(1999)2: 66-96.


DeBernardi, Jean. The Way that Lives in the Heart: Chinese Popular Religion and Spirit Mediums in Penang, Malaysia. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006.

Abstract: The Way That Lives in the Heart is a richly detailed ethnographic analysis of the practice of Chinese religion in the modern, multicultural Southeast Asian city of Penang, Malaysia. The book conveys both an understanding of shared religious practices and orientations and a sense of how individual men and women imagine, represent, and transform popular religious practices within the time and space of their own lives.

This work is original in three ways. First, the author investigates Penang Chinese religious practice as a total field of religious practice, suggesting ways in which the religious culture, including spirit-mediumship, has been transformed in the conjuncture with modernity. Second, the book emphasizes the way in which socially marginal spirit mediums use a religious anti-language and unique religious rituals to set themselves apart from mainstream society. Third, the study investigates Penang Chinese religion as the product of a specific history, rather than presenting an overgeneralized overview that claims to represent a single "Chinese religion." [Source: publisher's website]


DeBernardi, Jean. " Wudang Mountain and Mount Zion in Taiwan: Syncretic Processes in Space, Ritual Performance, and Imagination." Asian Journal of Social Science 37.1 (2009): 138-162.

Abstract: In this paper, I develop a detailed consideration of ways in which Chinese religious practitioners, including Daoists, Christians, and spirit mediums, deploy syncretism in complex fields of practice. Rather than focusing on doctrinal blending, this study emphasises the ways in which these practitioners combine elements from diverse religious traditions through the media of ritual performance, visual representation, story, and landscape. After considering the diverse ways in which syncretic processes may be deployed in a field of practice, the paper investigates three ethnographic cases, exploring ritual co-celebration at Wudang Mountain in South-central China, charismatic Christian practices in Singapore, and the recent development of Holy Mount Zion as a Christian pilgrimage site in Taiwan.

Dorfman, Diane, "The Spirit of Reform: The Power of Belief in Northern China." Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique 4(1996)2: 253-289.


Falkenhausen, Lothar von, "Reflections on the Political Role of Spirit Mediums in Early China: The Wu Officials in the Zhou Li." Early China 20(1995): 279-300.


Feuchtwang, Stephan, "Spiritual Recovery: A Spirit-writing Shrine in Shifting under Japanese Rule." Bulletin of the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica 88(1999): 63-89.


Feuchtwang, Stephan & Wang Mingming, Grassroots Charisma in China: Four Local Leaders in China. London: Routledge, 2001. Note: A comparative study of religion and local leadership in Meifa (Fujian) and Shiding (Taiwan). Chapter 7 addresses a spirit-writing cult in Shiding.


Formoso, Bernard. De Jiao - A Religious Movement in Contemporary China and Overseas: Purple Qi from the East. Singapore: NUS Press, 2010.

Abstract: De Jiao ("Teaching of Virtue") is a China-born religious movement, based on spirit-writing and rooted in the tradition of the "halls for good deeds," which emerged in Chaozhou during the Sino-Japanese war. The book relates the fascinating process of its spread throughout Southeast Asia in the 1950s, and, more recently, from Thailand and Malaysia to post-Maoist China and the global world. Through a richly-documented multi-site ethnography of De Jiao congregations in the PRC, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, Bernard Formoso offers valuable insights into the adaptation of Overseas Chinese to sharply contrasted national polities, and the projective identity they build with relation to China. De Jiao is of special interest with regard to its organization and strategies which strongly reflect the managerial habits and entrepreneurial ethos of the Overseas Chinese businessmen. It has also built original bonding with symbols of the Chinese civilization whose greatness it claims to champion from the periphery. Accordingly, a central theme of the study is the role that such a religious movement may play to promote new forms of identification with the motherland as substitutes for loosened genealogical links. The book also offers a comprehensive interpretation of the contemporary practice of fu ji spirit-writing, and reconsiders the relation between unity and diversity in Chinese religion. [Source: publisher's website]


Formoso, Bernard. “Spirit-Writing and Mediumship in the Chinese New Religious Movement Dejiao in Southeastern Asia.” Anthropos 109, no.2 (2014): 539-550.


Gaw, Albert C; Ding, Qin-zhang; Levine, Ruth E; Gaw, Hsiao-feng , "The Clinical Characteristics of Possession Disorder among 20 Chinese Patients in the Hebei Province of China." Psychiatric Services 49(1998)3: 360-365.

Abstract: OBJECTIVE: This paper describes the clinical characteristics of 20 hospitalized psychiatric patients in the Hebei province of China who believed they were possessed. METHODS: A structured interview focused on clinical characteristics associated with possession phenomena was developed and administered to 20 patients at eight hospitals in the province. All patients had been given the Chinese diagnosis of yi-ping (hysteria) by Chinese physicians before being recruited for the study. RESULTS: The subjects' mean age was 37 years. Most were women from rural areas with little education. Major events reported to precede possession included interpersonal conflicts, subjectively meaningful circumstances, illness, and death of an individual or dreaming of a deceased individual. Possessing agents were thought to be spirits of deceased individuals, deities, animals, and devils. Twenty percent of subjects reported multiple possessions. The initial experience of possession typically came on acutely and often became a chronic relapsing illness. Almost all subjects manifested the two symptoms of loss of control over their actions and acting differently. They frequently showed loss of awareness of surroundings, loss of personal identity, inability to distinguish reality from fantasy, change in tone of voice, and loss of perceived sensitivity to pain. CONCLUSIONS: Preliminary findings indicate that the disorder is a syndrome with distinct clinical characteristics that adheres most closely to the DSM-IV diagnosis of dissociative trance disorder under the category of dissociative disorder not otherwise specified. [Source of abstract: article.]


Goossaert, Vincent. "Modern Daoist Eschatology: Spirit-Writing and Elite Soteriology in Late Imperial China." Daoism: Religion, History and Society 6 (2014): 219-246.


Goossaert, Vincent. “Spirit Writing, Canonization, and the Rise of Divine Saviors: Wenchang, Lüzu, and Guandi, 1700–1858.” Late Imperial China 36, no.2 (2015): 82-125.

Abstract: This article aims to define one stage in the long history of the production of texts by Chinese elites using spirit writing. This stage lasted approximately from 1700 to 1858. It is characterized by processes of canonization, evidenced by two interrelated phenomena: the compilation of “complete books,” quanshu, for major savior gods (textual canonization), and their being granted very high-ranking titles by the imperial state (state canonization). Such processes were spurred by the activism of elite groups that promoted their values through their chosen divine saviors and their scriptural canons. The paper focuses on three gods in particular: Patriarch Lü, Wenchang, and Emperor Guan. The article discusses the textual and state canonizations of these gods and examines the social, doctrinal, and political dynamics that made them possible. (Source: journal)


Goossaert, Vincent. "Divine Codes, Spirit-Writing, and the Ritual Foundations of Early-Modern Chinese Morality Books." Asia Major, 3rd ser., 33, no. 1 (2020): 1–31.

Abstract: In China's early-modern period (11th–14th centuries), a large number of divine codes (guilü 鬼律, or tianlü 天律) were revealed to adepts in the context of the new exorcistic ritual traditions (daofa 道法) of that period. Their texts prescribed how hu-mans and spirits should behave; and laid out the mechanisms of divine punishments in case of any breach. After introducing the corpus of these codes, the article ex-plores the moral charter they outline for priests. It argues that this moral discourse is contiguous with that of a genre called morality books (shanshu 善書), and shows how priestly codes gradually entered general circulation and thereby became morality books. An important link between the two genres is spirit-writing. During the early-modern period priests used spirit-writing for producing ritual documents (including moral exhortations from the gods), but later the technique became generalized and was used to mass-produce morality books.


Graham, Fabian. Voices from the Underworld: Chinese Hell Deity Worship in Contemporary Singapore and Malaysia. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020.

Abstract: In Singapore and Malaysia, the inversion of Chinese Underworld traditions has meant that Underworld demons are now amongst the most commonly venerated deities in statue form, channelled through their spirit mediums, tang-ki. The Chinese Underworld and its sub-hells are populated by a bureaucracy drawn from the Buddhist, Taoist and vernacular pantheons. Under the watchful eye of Hell's 'enforcers', the lower echelons of demon soldiers impose post-mortal punishments on the souls of the recently deceased for moral transgressions committed during their prior incarnations. Voices from the Underworld offers an ethnography of contemporary Chinese Underworld traditions, where night-time cemetery rituals assist the souls of the dead, exorcised spirits are imprisoned in Guinness bottles, and malicious foetus ghosts are enlisted to strengthen a temple's spirit army. Understanding the religious divergences between Singapore and Malaysia through an analysis of socio-political and historical events, Fabian Graham challenges common assumptions on the nature and scope of Chinese vernacular religious beliefs and practices. Graham's innovative approach to alterity allows the reader to listen to first-person dialogues between the author and channelled Underworld deities. Through its alternative methodological and narrative stance, the book intervenes in debates on the interrelation between sociocultural and spiritual worlds, and promotes the de-stigmatisation of spirit possession and discarnate phenomena in the future study of mystical and religious traditions.


Haar, Barend J. ter, "Annotated Bibliography on Shamanism in Chinese Culture." 2000. http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/bth/shamanism.htm


Haar, Barend J. ter. “Shamans, Mediums, and Chinese Buddhism: A Brief Reconnaissance.” Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 1, no. 2 (2018): 202–230.

Abstract: In traditional China, Buddhism was not a separate religious tradition or culture practiced in isolation from the rest of Chinese religious culture. This applied not only to people outside the monastic context, but also to people within that context. Even shamanic and medium practices could take place within a Buddhist context. Shamanic is here defined as spirit travel or communication whilst the practitioner stays him- or herself, whereas a medium would be possessed and temporarily become the other spiritual being. Finally, future research should look at the way in which these practices may have been influenced and/or partially replaced by other forms of contact with the divine or supernatural world, such as dreams and visions.


Heinze, Ruth-Inge. Trance and Healing in Southeast Asia Today. 2nd ed. Bangkok: White Lotus, 1997.


Heinze, Ruth-Inge. "The Nature and Function of Rituals: Comparing a Singapore Chinese with a Thai Ritual." In Ruth-Inge Heinze [ed.], The Nature and Function of Rituals: Fire from Heaven. Westport, Connecticut: Bergin & Garvey, 2000. Pp. 1-23.


Hong, Keelung & Stephen O. Murray. Looking through Taiwan: American Anthropologists' Collusion with Ethnic Domination. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005. [See chapter 8: "A Taiwanese Woman Who Became a Spirit Medium: Native and Alien Models of How Taiwanese Identify Spirit Possession."]


Hu, Jiechen. “The Scripture of Filial Piety [Revealed] by Wenchang: A Bibliographical Study.” Acta Orientalia Hungarica 74, no. 2 (2021): 241–265.

Abstract: This article discusses the date of the Scripture of Filial Piety [Revealed] by Wenchang (Wenchang xiaojing 文 昌孝經). The central claim of this contribution is that the Scripture appeared during the Ming-Qing transition, being a product of the ritualisation of the Classic of Filial Piety (Xiaojing 孝經). By examining more than twenty different editions, this article identifies at least three different lines of textual transmission, each connected to distinctive commentaries and reprints. Confucian literati were the main social actors responsible for the creation, reproduction, redaction, and annotation of the extant editions.



Kang, Xiaofei. The Cult of the Fox: Power, Gender, and Popular Religion in Late Imperial and Modern China. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

Abstract: For more than five centuries the shamanistic fox cult has attracted large portions of the Chinese population and appealed to a wide range of social classes. Deemed illicit by imperial rulers and clerics and officially banned by republican and communist leaders, the fox cult has managed to survive and flourish in individual homes and community shrines throughout northern China. In this new work, the first to examine the fox cult as a vibrant popular religion, Xiaofei Kang explores the manifold meanings of the fox spirit in Chinese society. Kang describes various cult practices, activities of worship, and the exorcising of fox spirits to reveal how the Chinese people constructed their cultural and social values outside the gaze of official power and morality.

Kang's book uncovers and reinterprets a wealth of anecdotal historical texts and works of popular literature and draws on her own ethnographic research. She considers how the fox cult operated on the margins of Chinese society as well as the fox's place in the popular imagination. As a symbol, fox spirits have long been marginal and variable creatures with the ability to freely change their gender and age, appearing as both evil and benign. The Chinese people, as Kang demonstrates, have drawn on and manipulated the various meanings of the fox spirit to cope with and give order to the changes in their personal lives and in society.

Kang also pays close attention to the ways in which gender was used to construct religious power in Chinese society. Gendered interpretations of the fox were used to define the official and unofficial, private and public, and moral and immoral in religious practices. Kang's analysis of the history of the fox cult addresses central questions in the study of Chinese religion and society, including the dynamic between cultural unity and variation and the relationships of various social groups to popular religion. [Source: publisher's website.]


Katz, Paul, "The Wayward Phoenix?--The Early History of the Palace of Guidance." In Li Fengmao & Zhu Ronggui [eds.], Yishi, miaohui yu shequ--Daojiao, minjian xinyang yu minjian wenhua. Taipei: Zhongyang Yanjiuyuan, Zhongguo Wenzhe Yanjiusuo Choubeichu, 1996. Pp.197-228.


Katz, Paul R., "Morality Books and Taiwanese Identity: The Texts of the Palace of Guidance." Journal of Chinese Religions 27(1999): 69-92.


Keightley, David N., "Shamanism, Death, and the Ancestors: Religious Mediation in Neolithic and Shang China (ca. 5000-1000 B.C.)." Asiatische Studien/Études Asiatiques 52(1998)3: 763-828.


Kleinman, Arthur M. & Joan Kleinman, "Moral Transformations of Health and Suffering in Chinese Society." In: Allan M. Brandt & Paul Rozin [eds.], Morality and Health. New York: Routledge, 1997. Pp. 101-118.


Kosa, Gabor, "The Shaman and the Spirits: The Meaning of the Word 'ling' in the Jiuge poems." Acta Orientalia (Budapest) 56(2003)2-4: 275-294.


Kosa, Gabor. "Mythology and Shamanism in the Ancient Chinese State of Chu." In: Hoppal, Mihaly; Kosa, Gabor, eds. Rediscovery of Shamanic Heritage. Budapest, Hungary: Akademiai Kiado, 2003. Pp. 45-108.


Lagerwey, John. "The Continent of the Gods." Review of Religion and Chinese Society 6, no. 2 (2019): 188-208.

Abstract: It first occurred to me some thirty years ago that Shenzhou 神州, translated "continent of the gods," was a perfect way of talking about "China in the Daoist mirror." It made it possible to think of China as a series of concentric spaces, going from the self to the cosmos, all structured in the same away around nodal points occupied by gods. Because it revealed a dense organization at every level, this space-based approach led me as well to call into question the classic distinction between "diffused" and "organized" religion. Subsequent work, both historical and in the field, gradually enabled me to see this as a long evolutionary history which begins with elite attacks on spirit-medium religion in the Warring States and culminates with the emergence of popular religion in the Song. This religion includes popular versions of the Three Teachings, but it is built around the local, anthropomorphic gods whose primary task was the protection of bounded territory and whose natural servants were the ever-maligned spirit-mediums. (Source: journal)


Lai Chi-Tim. “The Cult of Spirit-Writing in the Qing.” Journal of Daoist Studies 8 (2015): 112-133.


Lai, Whalen W. "The Earth Mother Scripture: Unmasking the Neo-Archaic." In: Jacob K. Olupona [ed.], Beyond Primitivism: Indigenous Religious Traditions and Modernity. New York, London: Routledge, 2004. Pp. 200-213. [Note: On a spirit-written scripture.]


Lang, Graeme & Lars Ragvald, "Spirit-Writing and the Development of Chinese Cults." Sociology of Religion 59(1998)4: 309-328.


Law Pui-lam. "The Revival of Folk Religion and Gender Relationships in Rural China: A Preliminary Observation." Asian Folklore Studies 64(2005)1: 89-109. [Note: On revival of religious practices in the Pearl River Delta. Includes study of a female spirit-medium/shaman.]


Lin, Fu-shih, "Chinese Shamans and Shamanism in the Chiang-nan Area During the Six Dynasties Period (3rd to 6th Century A.D.)." Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1994.


Lin Fu-shih, "The Cult of Jiang Ziwen in Medieval China." Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie 10(1998): 357-375.

Abstract: Jiang Ziwen était un fonctionnaire actif durant les années de déclin de la dynastie des Han Orientaux. Il fut tué par des bandits qu'il poursuivait du côté de Jianye, le Nankin d'aujourd'hui. Le culte de Jiang prit son essor aussitôt après sa mort. Son premier sanctuaire fut érigé sur le versant nord-ouest du mont Zhong à douze li de la capitale. Sun Quan, le souverain de Wu, conféra à Jiang un titre posthume. Graduellement, il fut promu dans le monde des esprits de marquis à roi, puis empereur, par les empereurs successifs des Six Dynasties. Il semble que Jiang était la divinité dominante de la religion populaire dans la région du Jiangnan et spécialement dans la capitale et ses environs. Bizarrement, ce culte médiéval important n'a suscité que peu d'attention chez les chercheurs. Quoique le développement de ce culte ait été tracé chronologiquement et examiné d'un point de vue d'histoire sociale, son aspect rituel resta complètement ignoré. Par un heureux hasard, plusieurs récits miraculeux recueillis dans le Soushen ji et le Youming lu suggèrent que le culte de Jiang Ziwen avait une relation étroite avec le chamanisme. En outre, ces récits littéraires sont spécialement utiles pour nous aider à cerner certains traits caractéristiques du chamanisme, tels que le culte aux victimes de mort violente, le culte à l'icône du dieu, la construction des sanctuaires, les sacrifices sanglants avec offrandes d'animaux, les performances musicales exécutées au cours du rite. Enfin, une analyse sociologique de ceux qui furent les patrons ou les rivaux de ce culte peut se faire en recourant à des ouvrages littéraires commes les zhiguai. [Source of abstract: article]


Lin, Fu-shih. “The Image and Status of Shamans in Ancient China.” In: John Lagerwey and Marc Kalinowski [eds.], Early Chinese Religion: Part One: Shang through Han (1250 BC-220 AD). Leiden: Brill, 2009. Pp.397-458.


Lin, Fu-shih. “Shamans and Politics.” In: John Lagerwey and Lü Pengzhi [eds.], Early Chinese Religion: Part Two: The Period of Division (220-589 AD). Leiden: Brill, 2010. Pp.275-318.


Lin Wei-ping. "Son of Man or Son of God? The Spirit Medium in Chinese Popular Religion." In Affiliation and Transmission in Daoism: A Berlin Symposium, edited by Florian C. Reiter, 249-275. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2012.


Liu Xun. “Of Poems, Gods, and Spirit-Writing Altars: The Daoist Beliefs and Practice of Wang Duan (1793–1839).” Late Imperial China 36, no.2 (2015): 23-81.

Abstract: While recent studies have illuminated elite women’s Buddhist piety and practices, we remain limited in our understanding of elite women’s relations to and involvement in other religions, especially Daoism and local cults and practices. This article fills the gap and furthers our understanding of late Qing elite women’s religiosity and practices with a focused study of the Daoist beliefs and devotional practices of Wang Duan (1793–1839). Based on close reading of poems and other writings produced by Wang Duan, her relatives, and fellow poets, I reconstruct Wang Duan’s Daoist religiosity and devotional practices in the context of her marital household’s religious milieu, and the larger literary and religious community she was involved with. I show that Wang Duan’s exposure to the Daoist practices of her relatives by marriage such as Chen Wenshu and Lady Guan Yun led to her own life-long practice of reciting Daoist scriptures for the sake of saving the soul of her husband and of pacifying the local dead and the martyred worthies of Suzhou. Through the initiation by her aunt-in-law Chen Lanyun, a Quanzhen Longmen priestess, she also developed strong institutional ties to the Daoist monastic center based on Mount Jin’gai in Huzhou, the epicenter of Quanzhen Daoism in late Qing Jiangnan. Her active participation in local spirit-writing altars in Suzhou and Hangzhou, her literary homage to Gao Qi (1336–74), and her frequent recitation of the salvational Daoist Jade Scripture of the Great Cavern by the Primordial Origin contributed directly to elevation and consecration of the martyred early Ming poet as a patron god of local spirit-writing altars and rain-making cults in Suzhou and Yangzhou. Consistent with her status and role as a well-known and creative poet, Wang Duan used poems as a medium to express her multifaceted religiosity and identity. I argue that Wang Duan’s Daoist religiosity not only attests to the extent of Daoist practice in many elite women’s daily life, but also demonstrated that through their religious commitment and participation, elite women such as Wang Duan, exerted their agency and power in shaping Quanzhen Daoism and local religious practice in late Qing Jiangnan. (Source: journal)

Llamas, Regina. “A Reassessment of the Place of Shamanism in the Origins of the Chinese Theater.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 133, no.1 (2013): 93-109.


Marshall, Alison, "From the Chinese Religious Ecstatic to the Taiwanese Theatre of Ecstasy: A Study of the Wu." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Toronto, 2000.


Marshall, Alison R., "Moving the Spirit on Taiwan: New Age Lingji Performance." Journal of Chinese Religions 31(2003): 81-99.


Marshall, Alison R., "Engendering Mediumship: When Youths Performed the Rain Dances in Han Dynasty China." Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses 32(2003)1: 83-100.


Marshall, Alison, "Shamanism in Contemporary Taiwan." In: James Miller [ed.], Chinese Religions in Contemporary Societies. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006. Pp.123-145.


Mathieu, Rémi. “Les wu: fonctions, rites et pouvoirs, de la fin des Zhous au début des Hans (env. Ve – env. Ier siècle): approche d’un chamanisme chinois.” In: John Lagerwey [ed.], Religion et société en Chine ancienne et médiévale. Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf/Institut Ricci, 2009. Pp. 277-304.


Miska, Maxine, "Aftermath of a Failed Seance: The Functions of Skepticism in a Traditional Society." In Barbara Walker [ed.], Out of the Ordinary: Folklore and the Supernatural. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1995. Pp.90-106.


Mori Yuria, "Identity and Lineage: The Taiyi jinhua zongzhi and the Spirit-Writing Cult of Patriarch Lü in Qing China." In: Livia Kohn & Harold D. Roth [eds.], Daoist Identity: History, Lineage, and Ritual. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2002. Pp.165-184.


Nadeau, Randall L. , "Harmonizing Family and Cosmos: Shamanic Women in Chinese Religions." In: Nancy Auer Falk & Rita M. Gross [eds.], Unspoken Worlds: Women's Religious Lives. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2001. Pp. 66-79.


Ng, Beng-Yeong, "Phenomenology of Trance States Seen at a Psychiatric Hospital in Singapore: A Cross-Cultural Perspective." Transcultural Psychiatry 37(2000)4: 560-579.

Abstract: This study investigates the characteristic features of trance states in three different ethnic communities (Chinese, Malays and Indians) in Singapore by administering a semi-structured interview to 55 patients with the condition and analysing witnesses' accounts. Trance disorder among the three groups displays remarkable similarities in phenomenology but differ-ences also exist. Most of the trances were reportedly precipitated by fear, anger and/or frustration. Seventy per cent of patients reported prodromal symptoms. Common manifestations include unusual vocalizations and movements, shaking, apparent immunity from pain, and unfocused or fixed gaze. The patients tend to assume the identities of gods from their own cultures. For individuals reported to be possessed by deities, the embodied identities are gods lower down in the hierarchy of Chinese gods or a minor supernatural figure on the Hindu pantheon. The recognizable prodromal symptoms and hierarchy among the gods may have therapeutic implications. [Source of abstract: article]


Ng, Emily. A Time of Lost Gods: Mediumship, Madness, and the Ghost after Mao. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2020.

Abstract: Traversing visible and invisible realms, A Time of Lost Gods attends to profound rereadings of politics, religion, and madness in the cosmic accounts of spirit mediumship. Drawing on research across a temple, a psychiatric unit, and the home altars of spirit mediums in a rural county of China's Central Plain, it asks: What ghostly forms emerge after the death of Mao and the so-called end of history? The story of religion in China since the market reforms of the late 1970s is often told through its destruction under Mao and relative flourishing thereafter. Here, those who engage in mediumship offer a different history of the present. They approach Mao's reign not simply as an earthly secular rule, but an exceptional interval of divine sovereignty, after which the cosmos collapsed into chaos. Caught between a fading era and an ever-receding horizon, those "left behind" by labor outmigration refigure the evacuated hometown as an ethical-spiritual center to come, amidst a proliferation of madness-inducing spirits. Following pronouncements of China's rise, and in the wake of what Chinese intellectuals termed semicolonialism, the stories here tell of spirit mediums, patients, and psychiatrists caught in a shared dilemma, in a time when gods have lost their way.


Ng, Emily. "Spectral Revolution: Notes on a Maoist Cosmology." Made in China 5, no. 2 (2020): 104–111.

Abstract: This essay describes the cosmological role of Mao in ritual and spirit mediumship in rural China. It considers the occulted forces hosted by the Chairman's image and words, across movements of display, concealment, and circulation. Here, the Party-state has a cosmic double, and Maoist anti-religious policies are not what they seem.

Nickerson, Peter, "A Poetics and Politics of Possession: Taiwanese Spirit-Medium Cults and Autonomous Popular Cultural Space." Positions 9(2001)1: 187-217.


Pan Junliang. "Rethinking Mediumship in Contemporary Wenzhou." Review of Religion and Chinese Society 6, no. 2 (2019): 229-252.

Abstract: The study of spirit mediums has drawn the attention of international scholars from the 1960s onward, and the topic continues to thrive. Yet little work has been done on spirit mediums in mainland China, which have mainly been glimpsed through studies of mediumship in Taiwan. This article draws on ethnographic research to explore the diverse traditions of spirit mediums in Wenzhou. While spirit mediums are viewed with ambivalence, they play a significant role within broader Chinese folk religions. It is crucial to understand spirit mediums through the appropriate cultural context in order to understand their diverse practices and roles in local society. I discuss why Wenzhou's mediumship should be regarded as a form of shamanism in spite of differences between its discourse and practices and those of Minnan mediumship, as well as those of Siberian or Korean shamanism. (Source: journal)


Ng, Emily. "Spectral Revolution: Notes on a Maoist Cosmology." Made in China 5, no. 2 (2020): 104–111.

Abstract: This essay describes the cosmological role of Mao in ritual and spirit mediumship in rural China. It considers the occulted forces hosted by the Chairman's image and words, across movements of display, concealment, and circulation. Here, the Party-state has a cosmic double, and Maoist anti-religious policies are not what they seem.


Paper, Jordan, The Spirits are Drunk. Comparative Approaches to Chinese Religion. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995. (chapters 3 & 4)


Paper, Jordan, "Mediums and Modernity: The Institutionalization of Ecstatic Religious Functionaries in Taiwan." Journal of Chinese Religions 24(1996):105-129.


Paper, Jordan. "The Role of Possession Trance in Chinese Culture and Religion: A Comparative Overview from the Neolithic to the Present." In: The People and the Dao: New Studies in Chinese Religions in Honour in Prof. Daniel L. Overmyer, edited by Philip Clart & Paul Crowe. Sankt Augustin: Institut Monumenta Serica, 2009. Pp. 327-345.


Peng Mu. “The Invisible and the Visible: Communicating with the Yin World.” Asian Ethnology 74, no. 2 (2015): 335-362.

Abstract: In the absence of the institutional propagation of religious knowledge, how do people form an understanding of the yin world (yinjian), the Chinese spiritual realm where ancestors, spirits, and ghosts dwell, in contrast to the yang world (yangjian) where we live? Based upon fieldwork conducted in 2005, 2006, and 2010 in rural Chaling, Hunan, this article explores how the annual observance of the Ghost Festival, the time when souls are said to return to the world of the living, instills beliefs about the yin world. Elaborating on spirit mediums through whom villagers communicate with deceased family members, it examines how spirit possessions shape and are shaped by villagers’ understanding of the yin world. Traditions and assumptions engrained in local life enable a dialogue between the dead and the living, while the depictions of the afterlife through spirit mediumship embody images and visions of the yin world, making the invisible visible. (Source: journal)


Russell, T.C., "The Spiritualization of Feminine Virtue: Religion and Social Conservatism in the Late Qing." In: Steven Totosy de Zepetnek & Jennifer W. Jay [eds.], East Asian Cultural and Historical Perspectives. Edmonton: Research Institute for Comparative Literature and Cross-Cultural Studies, University of Alberta, 1997. Pp. 135-151.


Schlehe, Judith. "Translating Traditions and Transcendence: Popularised Religiosity and the Paranormal Practitioners' Position in Indonesia." In Religion, Tradition and the Popular: Transcultural Views from Asia and Europe, edited by Judith Schlehe and Evamaria Sandkühler, 185-201. Bielefeld, Germany: Transcript, 2014.


Shiga Ichiko, "The Manifestations of Lüzu in Modern Guangdong and Hong Kong: The Rise and Growth of Spirit-Writing Cults." In: Livia Kohn & Harold D. Roth [eds.], Daoist Identity: History, Lineage, and Ritual. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2002. Pp.185-209.


Stafford, Charles, The Roads of Chinese Childhood: Learning and Identification in Angang. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. See esp. chapter 7: "Divining Children".


Sutton, Donald S., "From Credulity to Scorn: Confucians Confront the Spirit Mediums in Late Imperial China." Late Imperial China 21(2000)2: 1-39.


Sutton, Donald S., "Shamanism in the Eyes of the Ming and Qing Elites." In: Kwang-Ching Liu and Richard Shek [eds.], Heterodoxy in late Imperial China. Honolulu : University of Hawai'i Press, 2004. Pp. 208-237.


Tong Enzheng, "Magicians, Magic, and Shamanism in Ancient China." Journal of East Asian Archaeology 4(2002)1-4: 27-73.


Tsai, Yi-Jia. “The Reformative Visions of Mediumship in Contemporary Taiwan.” Ph.D. dissertation, Rice University, 2003.

Abstract: This thesis explores how mediums in contemporary Taiwan engage themselves in the complicated project of modernity. In 1989--around the period when the government lifted martial law--a group of mediums founded their own association. It represents a conscious self-recognition of a time-honored religious professional who strives to come to terms with modern frame of professionalization. It is also a spiritual endeavor that tries to respond to contemporary Taiwanese political and moral struggle by appealing to the traditional Chinese cultural resources and the modern educational design. This thesis investigates the theorizations of the Association and explores how its reformative vision combines the ancient Chinese mediumship with modern nationalist discourse and modern Chinese intellectuals' concern for "saving China." The intertwining of religious mission and nationalist concern is further explored by the discussion of the Association's religious practices and activities, including the Moral Maintenance Movement it promoted, the mediums' meeting for the visiting of spirits, the ritual of national protection and spiritual appeasement, and their pilgrimage to the Mainland. This thesis draws on the ideas of de Certeau about the 'writing back the outlawed voice' and argues that the Association writes itself into the official discourse kaleidoscopically, creating a new topography by rearranging available fragments. It neither reiterates the dominant discourse, nor invents a new version; its practice of historical writing constitutes an exercise of reflexive thinking within the structure of normative codes and power relations. The Association's concern for the further education and cultivation of mediums is investigated through their educational activities. Through the care of one's body and spirit, the mediums make efforts to constitute themselves into ethical beings who are able to change a degraded society. The cooperation of medium and spirit is regarded as a co-constituted ethical project. It is explored by Foucault's scheme of the four parameters of the ethical fields. The other reformative visions of mediumship are further investigated through a college student's accounts of mediumistic experiences and a medium writer's works. In sum, these reformative visions of mediumship have added a significant reflective power both to conventional mediumship and to the various trends of modernity.

Tsai, Yi-jia. "The Writing of History: The Religious Practices of the Mediums' Association in Taiwan." Taiwan Journal of Anthropology 2(2004)2: 43-80.


Tsai, Yi-Jia. „Moving the Body, Awakening the Spirit: Mediums’ Performance of Healing, Cultivation and Salvation in Taiwan.“ Fu Jen International Religious Studies 2, no.1 (2008): 99-118.


Tsai, Yi-Jia. "Healing and the Construction of the Ethical Self: the Mediums' Modulation of Spirit and Exercise of Body." In: Religious and Ritual Change: Cosmologies and Histories, ed. by Pamela J. Stewart & Andrew Strathern. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2009. Pp. 245-273.


Wang Xing. "Rethinking the 'Magic State' in China: Political Imagination and Magical Practice in Rural Beijing." Asian Ethnology 77, no. 1-2 (2018): 331-351.

Abstract: This paper discusses the local imagination of the Chinese state in rural Beijing using ethnographic evidence. In particular, it examines the process by which the state is internalized in people's lives through local magical practices and collective memories of traditional rituals, geomancy, and spirit possessions. I argue that the magical aspect of the Chinese state in people's imagination denies an understanding of a magic state as the alternative for a violent and hegemonic reality for the state. In this sense, the Chinese popular perception of the state challenges the established concept of the state as the consequence of an elitist discussion and definition, and at the same time also challenges the national discourse. Furthermore, magical practices and beliefs in rural Beijing in relation to the local comprehension of the Chinese state show that in many cases, the state is considered as powerless.


Weller, Robert P., and Keping Wu. "On the Boundaries Between Good and Evil: Constructing Multiple Moralities in China." Journal of Asian Studies 76, no. 1 (2017): 47-67.

Abstract: This essay discusses three contrasting versions of the relationship between good and evil in contemporary China: a spirit medium who maneuvers between them, a charismatic Christian group that forges an identity by defending the border between them, and an official state and religious discourse of banal goodness and universal love that seeks to annihilate evil. Each defines good and evil differently, but more importantly, each imagines the nature of the boundary itself differently—as permeable and negotiable, clear and defensible, or simply intolerable. These varied conceptions help to shape alternate views of empathy, pluralism, and the problem of how to live with otherness. (Source: journal)


Yang, Mayfair. "Shamanism and Spirit Possession in Chinese Modernity: Some Preliminary Reflections on a Gendered Religiosity of the Body." Review of Religion and Chinese Society 2, no. 1 (2015): 51-86.


Zeitlin, Judith T., "Spirit Writing and Performance in the Work of You Tong (1618-1704)." T'oung Pao 84(1998): 102-135.


Zhang, Hong; Hriskos, Constantine. "Contemporary Chinese Shamanism: the Reinvention of Tradition." Cultural Survival Quarterly 27(2003)2: 55-57.